Social media changes how we watch sports

By
Updated: March 29, 2013
Jimmy Butler's dunk over Chris Bosh was awesome, but so was the response on Twitter.

Jimmy Butler’s awesome dunk over Chris Bosh was made even better by the instant and overwhelming response on Twitter.

The world in your living room

As a huge Chicago Bulls fan, I thoroughly enjoyed their recent game against the Miami Heat. It’s always must-see TV when your favorite team goes up against the league’s best, but the atmosphere around this game was even more intense because Miami entered the contest on a 27-game winning streak, the second longest in NBA history.

Social media: the camaraderie of a sports bar from the comfort of your own couch.

Social media: the camaraderie of a sports bar from the comfort of your own couch.

Chicago won an entertaining game 101-97, and I loved every second of it. But afterwards, I couldn’t help thinking about how my game-watching experience now is so different from what it was ten—or even five—years ago. I watched the game at home by myself (I know, I’m a loser), but I was not alone. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, WCSN, and other social media, I was able to share in the highs and lows of the game with thousands of other fans, many of whom I didn’t even know.

Ten years ago, I would have had to go to a sports bar for a similar experience (ignoring the fact that I was only 14). And I would have shared the moment with the somewhere between 10 and 20 people. Instead, I reveled in each highlight dunk, complained about each suspect foul, and cracked dozens of jokes at Miami’s expense along with fellow fans from around the globe.

This experience was not limited to simply this one game, although it was magnified by the significance of the contest. Similar ones happen for fans everywhere whenever their favorite team is playing, whether the platform is WCSN, Twitter, ESPN, or another social media outlet. Being a fan today is not just about watching the games. More than it has ever been, fandom is about experiencing moments together with your fellow fans.

Well, maybe not more than it has ever been. Sports bars, tailgates, and game parties, which offer much of the same camaraderie (and arguably even a better version of it) have been a staple of fandom for years. Maybe it’s simply easier to be a part of these moments now—especially for those who live out of the media market of their favorite teams—since you don’t have to leave your own couch.

Alone among millions

I hope we never reach the point where we focus so much on the social media that we forget about the sports.

I hope we never reach the point where we focus so much on the social media that we forget about the sport itself.

Is this trend good or bad for sports fans? Much like the social media technology itself, I think it’s a little bit of both. It’s great to be able to experience these moments and events together, but it should not replace actual person-to-person contact. I’d rather watch a game with four or five buddies and stay off of the internet than sit by myself and be “hanging out” with other fans online. Unfortunately, the former option isn’t always possible, so the second one is a much better alternative to sitting alone and talking to no one.

The other issue is making sure that you don’t get so caught up in talking about the game that you actually miss out on the game. When I am really into a game, I find social media too distracting, as it’s easy to get wrapped up in debates and/or conversations and miss what’s actually going on. Thus, I turn my computer off (I’m still stuck in the Stone Age without a smartphone), or at least only look at it during commercials.

What does this all mean? What am I trying to say here? I’m not sure I have a grand point. I just think it’s cool that we can share in our fandom in real time during games, even if there’s nobody else there with us. That’s a privilege previous generations of fans didn’t have, and I want to take a moment to appreciate it. I also hope that we don’t gradually lose out on the old-school ways of experiencing sports together.

About the author

Jon Vander Woude enjoys writing in-depth analytical articles that examine statistical trends in the NFL offseason. He also covers the Chicago Bears beat for Water Cooler Sports. Despite growing up in Michigan, California, and Miami, he had the good fortune to be reared by a father who grew up in Chicago raised him to root for the Bears, Bulls, and Cubs. Feel free to write him at with any questions, comments, or suggestions for future columns. Connect with

394 comments
jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

Bears sign Josh McCown to 1-year deal to be backup QB.

The High Flyer
The High Flyer

So will Ryan get something close to Romo money or Flacco money? 

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

 for sure more than Romo.

The High Flyer
The High Flyer

 Why? they both have the same amount of playoff wins

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

  fun fact: Peyton's SB run was far and away his worst playoffs as an individual.  His passer rating was terrible.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

  I'd say he does a pretty solid Peyton impression...

The High Flyer
The High Flyer like.author.displayName 1 Like

 True. I love Matt Ryan. But if he wants Manning, Brees, Flacco and now Rodgers money, he needs to do what they have done. Otherwise, take the romo money and be happy. 

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

  younger, more consistent.  Not quite as much of a choker.

___bp___
___bp___ like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I'm the hell out of here to pre-party for the Twolves game.  Gonna be more wild than... something wild.

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

 So it's you and 4 other people at the bar?  I keed I keed.....

The High Flyer
The High Flyer

Im pissed that Atlanta took away the only Rock station we had left and changed it to yet another Top 100 pop hits station. We have 5 of those now and no more Alternate or Rock stations. I may have to activate my XM Radio now. The government is trying to brain wash us!

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

 IPOD, SON!

The High Flyer
The High Flyer

 My I-pod's battery died. i havent gotten around to replacing it. I just use Pandora or spotify on my phone now

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

   Every single one of mine is a purchase!

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog

   I have nearly 20,000 songs in iTunes.

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

  Google music, 10,000 songs.

Though you have to upload what you already have...

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

  Well that works too.

adambballn
adambballn like.author.displayName 1 Like

Saw this in Bioshock Infinite... thought it was pretty awesome.  Bought Beach Boys album today.


___bp___
___bp___

 Can't count on normal radio for anything.  Facty fact.  Gotta go find things on your own.  THe music bizz is, in one way, broken; but in another, as great as its ever been.  You just have to make friends with the right kind of hipster.

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

  Music SUCKS now-a-days!  Back in the day the popular stuff was Great, and so was the underground stuff.  Now its just the underground stuff.

ReggiesNoJackpondavre
ReggiesNoJackpondavre moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

  

or be friends with former band people who know tons of underground bands.


(me) xD lol

The High Flyer
The High Flyer

 Haha. I used to keep a music collection since I was in the 8th grade. I havent updated it since 2010 though. It has like 7,000 songs. 

ReggiesNoJackpondavre
ReggiesNoJackpondavre moderator

  

youd think so..but..im a nice guy. so ill try my best to inform him lol

___bp___
___bp___

 But you are going to shut out ATL out of spite for your inter-division rival, right?

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog

Here's an interesting one:  I was reading an article about Peanut Tillman where he was labeled as a future HOFer.  

___bp___
___bp___ like.author.displayName 1 Like

 Gotta keep it up for a while, but last season helped because he finally had the media splash.  Never underrate that side of the equation.

adambballn
adambballn

  

Being a Bear doesn't hurt either...

adambballn
adambballn

  I'd agree with that... His numbers won't be too far off of Charles Woodson's once he's all done.  And I think we can all agree Woodson is a HOF'er.

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

  Woodson is a shoe-in.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

 he could be

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog

  I remember having this conversation about Woodson.  There aren't very many D-backs in the HOF and Tillman I don't think statistically holds up.  Maybe though.......

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog

  As long as people go back and look at how good he was earlier in his career when he was basically ignored, then I think he'll have a chance.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator

  he holds several Bears franchise records, including defensive TDs, most fumbles forced, and most turnovers.  Another 2-3 good years and his numbers will make him at least in the discussion

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

You guys know I'm a Cutler-backer.  But Emery IMO obviously shows little allegiance to the veteran players, and is running the team very business-like.  And with adding Trestman, the supposed QB "guru", I could absolutely see a case where the Bears let Cutler walk and develop a cheaper and younger QB as opposed to throwing 20 mil/yr at him.

J. Walter Weatherman
J. Walter Weatherman

Take the best qb in a shitty qb draft, pay him scraps.  Let him walk after 4 years and perhaps get a 3rd rounder for him.

adambballn
adambballn like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

  If he doesn't make it happen this year I think he's as good as gone.

I bless the rains down in Africa
I bless the rains down in Africa

 If they win the Super Bowl this year, he inks the league's first $200 million contract.

___bp___
___bp___ like.author.displayName 1 Like

  Gonna need some help here Rick.  Are you going to make me google that?

___bp___
___bp___ like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

   What if he masturbates on your dog?

Nard-Dog
Nard-Dog like.author.displayName 1 Like

  If the Bears win the SB I won't care what Emery does.

___bp___
___bp___ like.author.displayName 1 Like

  I can support that.

___bp___
___bp___

  ... and spends it all on smokes.